At the Guilford County Board of Commissioners meeting on Thursday, May 19, County Manager Mike Halford did one of the most important things that a county manager does each year.
He presented the board with a proposed budget – this one for fiscal 2022-2023.
While the county commissioners always make changes to the manager’s budget before adopting a final budget in June, the manager’s recommended budget carries a great deal of weight and acts as the “rough draft” for the county’s final budget.
This year, Halford’s budget totals $855 million and it recommends keeping the county’s tax rate at 73.05 cents per $100 of assessed property value.
While it sounds friendly to taxpayers that the tax rate doesn’t go up in the suggested budget, in reality, it’s not taxpayer-friendly at all since the county just revalued all pieces of property in Guilford County – almost all of them upward. So, overall, in 2022-2023, Guilford County government will be collecting roughly $92 million more in property taxes from citizens when compared to the property taxes that were collected in the current fiscal year.
The proposed budget is highly supportive of Guilford County Schools. It calls for $251.6 million in county funds to be used for school operations in 2022-2023, which is a $16 million increase over the 2021-2022 budget. If approved by the commissioners, that would constitute the largest one-year increase in school operations funding that the county has ever given Guilford County Schools.
The proposed budget also includes $10 million for school maintenance, repair and renovation. That represents a $6 million increase over the amount in the budget adopted last June.
In addition, there’s $15 million in new money in the proposed budget to increase employee compensation for Guilford County government jobs. Halford said it’s tough to fill vacancies and keep good people right now – and that extra $15 million, he said, will help the county pay more competitive salaries.
The manager’s 2022-2023 budget adds a lot of positions. It includes 51 new county positions meant to address service demands, protect county assets and bring the county more in line with state averages when it comes to employees per capita.
For instance, Halford said the county currently isn’t meeting standards for Child Protective Services – so he’s proposing to add 12 positions in that office in order to reduce workloads and speed things up.
There would also be three new positions in the Guilford County Health Department, including a new health inspector.
Halford’s budget also calls for a new “behavioral health navigator” position to advance the new model of mental health treatment that the county implemented last year.
The budget also asks for a new position for the Guilford County Family Justice Centers. The manager told the commissioners that the two Family Justice Centers – one in High Point, one in Greensboro – are really getting used a lot.
The new budget would also offer two new positions to the Guilford County Clerk’s Office, largely to deal with public records requests, and the Purchasing Department would get two new positions as well.
The budget calls for a new paralegal position for the County Attorney’s Office and a new position in the Finance Department to keep “more eyes on the county’s finances.”
The budget proposed Thursday night by Halford includes more funding for technology and security at a time when many local governments across the county are experiencing cyber attacks.
Earlier in this fiscal year, the Board of Commissioners added 11 planning positions to help decrease the level of frustration among many local developers.
The new budget adds three new positions in Environmental Services to deal with illegal dumping and to interact with the county’s network of waste haulers.
A $1.7 billion school bond referendum passed on Tuesday, May 17, and a $300 million school bond referendum passed two years ago, so the budget also includes an extra $50 million for “future education capital needs.” The timing and use of that money will be based on a plan adopted by the school system for how to best use that voter-approved school bond money.
The budget also shores up the county’s savings account which is meant to enhance the county’s ability to handle emergencies.
Again, everything in the manager’s budget is contingent on approval by a majority of the nine-member Board of Commissioners.